Planes Over Charles to Recognize MIT WWII Contributions


Motorists and noon-time strollers may wonder what's up on Friday, June 16, when six World War II military planes fly past the MIT campus over the Charles River in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.

The planes will fly at an altitude of 1000' and should pass by MIT around 12:15 pm. In a special tribute to MIT alumni/ae and others who lost their lives in defense of our country, on the return flight west up the river, the planes will go into a special movement called "missing man formation" where the last plane sweeps vertically into the sky.

The fly-by is a part of Technology Day 1995, the annual alumni gathering, which this year focuses on "War, Technology, Peace, Change." Several of the speakers and events will highlight MIT's contribution to help win World War II including development of:

��������������������������� radar systems (with the exception of the atomic bomb activity, this was the largest civilian research and development agency)
��������������������������� submarine and aircraft detection systems
��������������������������� long range navigation scheme based on radar principles
��������������������������� the SCR-584 radar for directing anti-aircraft fire
��������������������������� Ground-Controlled Approach system for landing aircraft in low- visibility
��������������������������� Draper Gun Sight which positions a gun at the proper lead angle to fire at moving targets
��������������������������� war training programs for service people
��������������������������� radioactive tracer materials used in metallurgy, chemical warfare and in aiding the blood donor program by developing methods for preserving blood
��������������������������� super-high-voltage x-ray outfits for examination of castings and munitions
��������������������������� improved oxygen production and transportation for use in submarines, aircraft and hospitals
���������������������������������������������long-range weather forecasting

While MIT's participation in the development of the atomic bomb was very small in comparison with the major contracts for the program, a number of MIT scientist were recruited to work on the effort.

The planes scheduled to make the noon fly-over are a B-25 twin-engine bomber, a P-51 fighter, which became the outstanding high-altitude escort fighter of the war; two AT-6s, an F4U Corsair and a DC-3. It was from the controls of a B-25 that James H. Doolittle, an MIT alumnus, led the April 18, 1942 bombing raid against Japan, the first U.S. strike of the war against Japan's homeland. In all, 16 B-25s took off from the deck of the aircraft carrier Hornet, a daring feat because the planes were not designed to be flown from carriers. The daylight raid bolstered U.S. morale, coming only four months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Tech Day speakers will discuss how the war changed MIT and relate the Institute's contributions to the successful conclusion of the conflict. MIT's major response to the war effort was the creation of the Radiation Laboratory which developed microwave radar. Speakers will include historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin; Aeronautics and Astronautics Professor Robert C. Seamans Jr., former Secretary of the Air Force and former president of the National Academy of Engineering; Paul E. Gray, chairman of the MIT Corporation; Professor Lester C. Thurow and President Charles M. Vest.

# # #

During World War II:

  • 8,776 alumni (24% of living alumni at the time) were enrolled in the armed forces
  • 148 alumni died for their country
  • MIT had 400 contracts for work in the war effort

War educational activities included:

  • The MIT Radar School trained 4,742 naval officers and 2,524 army officers
  • MIT trained 994 students (principally Army Air Force) in meteorology and weather forecasting
  • Use of facilities such as the Wind Tunnel and the chemical engineering lab

The Institute adopted a policy that it would accept no profit on the war work it undertook for the government and had a firm policy to always give first precedence to serve in the crisis.


Topics: Security studies and military, Administration, History of MIT

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